Sunday, December 19, 2010
Yes, there are benefits to secrecy and traditional diplomacy, but the failure in my entire lifetime so far to secure a peace deal in the Middle East makes a mockery of diplomacy's claims. Justice is powerless in the shadows. I think that's the lesson that Wikileaks will try to teach us. And here last week the US Congress passed a resolution condemning the Palestinians for threatening to declare statehood unilaterally in the face of Israeli intransigence on the settlements. It seems that in this season of lights the powerless continue to face obliteration. Money talks. Merry Christmas.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
We are like those two ferries right now, red and blue camps, ideologically unable to avert the mutual destruction we seem to be inflicting on ourselves, at the mercy of some unknown joker power who seems to have robbed us of common sense and common decency. The truth of how low we have sunk is reflected in the tax debate in Washington and the corollary impact of denying an extension of unemployment benefits to the long term jobless in this season.
Here's my favorite Dark Knight of the moment. Any resemblance to the Joker is purely ironic. Al Franken and his Minnesota common sense cuts to the chase in these Senate floor musings. Some may call it political theater, but sometimes theatrics speak to the broader picture.
I guess we need two parties - the dialectic of left vs. right is what advances the common cause - and like the man said about democracy - it's the worst form of government except all the others, ( Winston Churchill). But it's downright embarrassing, disgraceful, unbelievable, what word would cover this? that we've elected these people who are prepared to go to the wall to preserve tax cuts for the wealthiest among us in a time of economic distress for the weakest among us. As Al said, what are we doing here? For me, it's unacceptable. I'm ready, like the prisoner in Batman, to say, look take my tax cuts and cancel them, too. Out the window with the detonator of this horrible social experiment in which everyone loses.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
The chain saw was working well, just as well as the gas-powered saws which have bedeviled me through the years. The guys at the saw shop always blame the ethanol in the gasoline. I finally decided to try an electric chain saw and so far so good. It runs quietly, dependably, and I can cut it off and rearrange the logs without fear that it will flood when I go to crank it up again. Internal combustion is on the way out, I hope, and not a moment too soon.
Last night the lights were on at the Peak. They have been for about a week; with cold enough nights to power up the snow-blowing guns, they've been busy, running the shifts of groomers from dusk to dawn. It looks like winter is here. What would the ski resorts do without snow-making? They are increasingly reliant on it to get in a full season of skiing. Life goes on, and it is good, without a doubt.
But anybody that has any doubts about the seriousness of the global warming threat ahead of our children should read the latest NY Times story on the melting of the Arctic. It is an even-handed, sober, scientific appraisal of the adaptations we will have to make to sea levels rising by the end of this century. Goodbye coastlines, in all probability. Futuristic scare tactics on the part of evil scientists intent on illicit fund-raising it is not. A reality check and a sober reminder of how derelict we have been, is what it is. Meanwhile, Obama is playing hoops. Good for him. Nero had a fiddle. We can always build seawalls around Manhattan to protect Wall Street and on the outer banks of the Chesapeake Delta to save that White House basketball court, but what about Bangladesh and Cairo and Indonesia? Those people will be relocating to a shelter near you Jim Boehner, and you, Sarah Palin, won't be seeing Russia from your kitchen because it's going to be under water.
Someone should declare this coming year, 2011, the year of climate change awareness. Maybe I will. People in Washington will be too busy doing the important things, like making sure they win reelection in two years, never mind the long view. That democracy thing, the free market? Doesn't seem to be working for us, I'm afraid. I love what George Carlin used to say about choices. We have two thousand brands of interchangeable toilet paper, but politics? We'll be looking and listening to Tweedle-Dumb and Tweedle-Dee, with only a short time to turn things around and get carbon in the atmosphere down to manageable levels. On all fronts we could use some immediate action, from the cars we drive to the homes we build and live in to the electricity we rely on to run civilization. We'll be lucky if we get anything but more hot air from our leaders in the foreseeable future.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Sunday, November 14, 2010
When the bubbles burst in the technology and housing markets, and there was nothing left to prop up the illusion of American exceptionalism, there was only one thing to do - go back to the basics. You could see this around here when people started giving guilty looks at the gasoline stations as they filled up their Suburbans, burnt up not only by the amount of money they were paying for gas, but also by the air of social opprobrium which had reached a critical mass. You can see it today by the trend towards smaller houses, with last year being the first in ten years that average sizes shrank. You can see it in the hankering for fiscal responsibility on the part of government, a desire to move away from the pork barrel spending that characterized our democracy. As long as the grease was there, everyone was happy, but now, with the piper in sight, we need to see what else binds us together besides government largesse and cheap Walmart goods. It's true that by standing against the stimulus package and government spending, Republicans risk exacerbating the economy, but in some holistic, old-fashioned medicine kind of way, maybe that's what we need, a long period of hardship to harden us again and set us back on the right path.
And we could stand to lose some weight, as could the rest of the world hurrying to catch up to us in creature comforts and easy-living lifestyles, apparently. The economic costs of obesity related ailments in the United States alone are now the equivalent of a recessionary dip every year, $150 billion. Will the recession start to turn this around? Doubtful, unless we make it a policy to make healthy food affordable. As it is, junk in, pounds on, and everyone is happy. The good stuff, nutrient dense and chemical free, is only available in the kind of trendy markets that most people can't shop at for reasons of pocketbook and transportation access. Just another symptom of the lunacy brought about in the age of runaway growth.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Yesterday was busy, running up to the farm in the Quaker district with Michael, piling bales twenty at a time in the trailer, multiple trips, stacking them neatly in the sheep barn at home.
Live for today, all the books will say so.
The two elderly brothers in the door of the old barn, hundreds of bales in the dark cavernous space behind them, handing them down to us in the trailer, their eyes still bright despite the years, looking out at the 600 acres of fields and woods, typical New Hampshire operation with the maple sugar lines along the road and elk in the corral, diversifying. It makes you resolve to something, the flickering light in their eyes and the crinkly, leathery smiles. Don't know what, but something. Some day it's going to click and flow like water, effortless.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
That's why I was surprised at Paul Krugman for finishing off his latest editorial with the dire warning. "Be afraid. Be very afraid." He predicts, based on recent comments by Republican leader Mitch McConnell, that the next years will bring even worse impasse and economic misery as the Republicans aim to wrest control of the White House with a damn the torpedoes policy on any legislative progress dealing with our fundamental problems. It could be that this is the calculation Republicans will make. After all, they must ask themselves, which of the two parties seems to benefit the most from a hinterland of disaffected, ignorant and angry Americans, prone to manipulation and fear-mongering?
But I don't think they will, and that is because of the most important rule of American politics: the economy, stupid, to paraphrase James Carville. If we continue to tank or even stagnate in terms of middle class incomes and expectations, the GOP will have to share at least a portion of the blame in the following electoral cycle. They would be slitting their own throats to continue to play the obstructionist game for the next two years with a majority in any of the two legislative chambers.
There are ideological impasses that recent history teaches us will be impossible for the Republicans in power to overcome, such as what to do with our energy policy. But even here the beauty of our system, with its many layered checks and balances, comes to light. In the absence of any federal action, states are already banding together into regional alliances, some of them cutting across national boundaries, such as the Northeast's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, to pledge measures to cut carbon emissions and increase the impact of energy efficiency and renewables. The infrastructure investments set up by the stimulus bill will continue to play out over the next two years, even with their relatively limited impact, providing the seeds of new manufacturing and business growth, enough to get us off our backsides and working again. And, sure, Republicans and Democrats will clash on how to improve the educational system and basic infrastructure, but nobody will argue for a hands off approach here, except the most rabidly libertarian Tea Party types.
Krugman is a Nobel laureate, and knows more than anybody of the inner workings of the American economy, but I think he is resorting to unnecessary fear-mongering. After all, most Americans are just trying to do the right thing, and if it seems that their priority is voting Republican in order to put a dent in our deficit because they've chosen to be amnesiac about the recent past, well the next time around they might follow another byzantine path to make a different choice that favors the left and its agenda. That's the crazy way we set things up and it's worked this long. There is a natural corrective mechanism. It's called the vote. No reason to fear, in my humble opinion.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
On the other hand, wouldn't it be great to believe in the change again? Never mind the record of corruption, the control exerted by the financial sector on both parties. If the Dems could hold the line and find a way to get around the filibuster, might we finally get some climate change legislation? I'm not even talking cap and trade anymore, but some significant renewable portfolio standards on the federal level, some subsidies for research, high voltage transmission lines and mass transit, would go a long way with restoring my faith in our ability to control our destiny. If only our democracy were less messy. But that would be Scandinavia and boring. So I'll be making phone calls to get out the vote next weekend and might even dip into the credit card again before midnight. Hold on there, Nancy!
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Bill McKibben's entourage, bearing the Jimmy Carter solar panels that had been archived at Unity College in Maine, was rebuffed at the White House earlier this fall, one could easily see the political calculus that was driving Obama's staff. Carter, in the public's mind, is the icon for bumbling, ineffective do-goodism, and his calls for energy conservation, turning down our thermostats and wearing cardigan sweaters, along with the clunky White House solar panels, still function as a hound dog whistle call to the right. Ronald Reagan was applauded for taking them down as a disgusting leftist aberration. So no solar panels on the White House roof as of yet, said Barack. But then, veering back to the liberal base once McKibben had safely retreated back to New England and out of the headlines in the convoy of VW vans, our President announced he would indeed install solar panels on the White House as a symbol of the green energy and green jobs revolution that he has touted since day one as the top priority of his administration.
In his Washington Post column today, Will spoofs the move as a sign of the return of 1970s' nanny state over-reach, like the 55 mph speed limit, that led to public revulsion and the rise of the new Republican party under Ronald Reagan. He is right, of course, there is a similar backlash going on today. No-one could question the reality of what George Soros has called the "avalanche" of right-wing American anger, however misguided and ignorant of causes, at the health care reform bill and the stimulus package. But he is wrong to believe that the impulse to reform lies in some noblesse oblige desire to beautify the American way of life. There is genuine suffering when 40 million Americans are forced to go without health care, not to mention the economic distress it causes. There is surely a genuine need to wean ourselves from foreign oil, as even George Bush acknowledged. These are not liberal delusions, these are issues that need to be addressed, and a deregulatory, laissez faire approach to government intervention in the public sectors leaves us without a choice - witness the financial sector meltdown. It is too easy, not to mention satisfying to the ego, to rely on George Will's kind of ideological purity. It is the ideology of money, the Reaganite fixation on the bottom line as the only true metric. It is the ideology behind the Supreme Court's Citizen United decision, which conflates citizens with corporations when it extends to these the rights of free speech and has unleashed a barrage of shadowy advertising on this latest midterm election. If this corruption is triumphant in our body politic, it will also lead to a backlash of cleansing.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
The Danube, one of the jewels of the Old World, has a name "from Celtic (Gaulish). It is one of a number of river names derived from a Indo-European word *dānu, apparently a term for "river", but possibly also of a primeval cosmic river, and of a river goddess (see Danu (Asura)), perhaps from a root *dā "to flow/wift, rapid, violent, undisciplined," according to Wikipedia.
Yet another massive slap to the face of our mother planet. We seem to be administering these on a monthly basis. The almost instinctual need for governments to cover-up from ourselves the awful consequences of our collective irresponsibility is a sign of the great shame we are under, but of course also only perpetuates it and brings greater problems to those in power. The Obama administration has not escaped this curse of authority, as reports from independent government investigators show that initial communication about the Gulf oil spill deliberately underplayed the worst case scenarios. Let us hope that European officials can hold themselves to a higher standard. The ten nations that share the Danube River watershed will presumably be on the lookout for hogwash concerning the fate of the sludge.
In the meantime, back in the US, so many people are fed up with the broken state of the political system and the harried lifestyle bred by America's love affair with laissez faire capitalism, that they are ready to vote anyone in power out of office, simply as a protest. Polling experts now are thinking that the pattern in the last several midterm elections of the incumbent party losing seats has little to do with the issues and more to do with a general sense of dissatisfaction with the state of the country. Voters just want to "throw the bums out" no matter what they say they stand for. Many are looking for a third party to speak truth to the voters and break the Washington gridlock that they see as threatening our global preeminence, much like the Roman Empire was undermined by its inability to reform. Call me a cynic, but we've been down that road before with Ralph and got nowhere. Truth is not enough. There has to be a sea-change.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
I never played soccer. I was a decent miler and half miler in high school and played winger on my college rugby team, but I fell in love with soccer as a twenty two year old assigned to cover the U-17 World Cup in Acapulco, my first year working for the old UPI. The athleticism, the combination of technical skill and sheer improvisation, and the constant pace won me over. When we moved back to the States, the presence of a strong youth soccer tradition was something that made me feel good in the midst of the Bush years and the rightward drift of the country. I was right in my hunch that my kids, at least the first two, would enjoy the sense of accomplishment and competition. Michael is turning into a solid and selfless midfielder, and Eve has become the revelation of the season, with dribbling skills and a knack for making beeline, cutting dashes for the goal from anywhere, the ball seemingly glued to her feet.
Sometimes I am one of those parents that has to force himself to take a step back, to reengage with the reality that life is not about soccer, that it's just a game, one of the many pastimes and entertainments available to us in our media-soaked global village. But I am grateful for it and look forward to the fall and my escape into a simpler time and space.
Monday, September 20, 2010
In an eerily parallel story, experts from the National Bureau of Economic Research declared today that the recession officially ended in June. We need no photograph to tell us how absurd that feels. In today's issue of the Concord Monitor, I counted two jobs for employment, two babysitting jobs at day care centers. What a long way we still have to go to get back to good times, and yet, it could be worse. The interesting thing is that the people complaining the loudest, apparently, are the very rich, as noted in Paul Krugman's opinion piece in the NY Times. I still can't get over the vehemence of the conservatives who, in the name of fiscal responsibility were asleep at the switch during the Bush years -- as we squandered the nation's surplus built up during the Clinton era 90's. And now they are oh so angry as Obama tries to implement the long feared communist takeover of America. How dare he enact health care for the sake of 40 million uninsured Americans. Bush's lies about WMD, well, never mind those. The redness of their faces, according to Krugman, is due as much to good living and overindulgence as to genuine anger.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Labor Day weekend -- the last stretch of free days before the fall comes down with its head-long plunge into the long hours of work, the busy weekends of soccer, the preparatory chores for the cold season. We are lucky and grateful for labor rights and union rights. So many countries lack those basic rights and freedoms, such as the right to form unions, which form the backbone of our middle class way of life.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
The first day of school and the first early morning after a long summer brings a new season, a new year. The rain breaking all day wanted to wash away the sleepy dust from the roads. Susan has her first day with grades 2-8 Spanish. Now there are two Spanish teachers in the house. Everybody's taking it in stride, but I was alone in the house working on my doors while it rained. I start my first day tomorrow. I got the second door's frame mortises finished and rebates for paneling cut and now it's ready for glueing and clamping. The first door looks good, with oak frames and 1/4 inch diagonal pine paneling. I listened to Pandora while I worked, my own station playing Candyman. Yes it was the last day of summer. Afterward, on Dianne Rehm, I listened while a panel discussed A Room With a View, which made me think of going back to work, where I look out on the meeting of two sides of a brick building where the wind sometimes catches debris in a little swirl of current.
Come all you pretty women with your hair a-hanging down
Open up your windows, 'cause the Candyman's in town
Come on boys and gamble
Roll those laughing bones
Seven come eleven, boys, I'll take your money home
Look out, look out, the Candyman
Here he comes and he's gone again
Pretty lady ain't got no friend
Till the Candyman comes around again
I come in from Memphis where I leant to talk the jive
When I get back to Memphis, be one less man alive
Good morning, Mister Benson
I see you're doing well
If I had me a shotgun, I'd blow you straight to hell
Come on boys and wager, if you have got the mind
If you've got a dollar, boys, lay it on the line
Hand me my old guitar
Pass the whiskey round
Won't you tell everybody you meet that the Candyman's in town
Look out, look out, the Candyman
Here he come and he's gone again
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
With the summer drawing to a close, these last family days together are like the fruit of the season, ripening nicely. The Atlantic water was 67 degrees, still bone chilling, but we stayed in for twenty minutes at a stretch, catching some nice bodysurfing waves, maybe 4.5 feet with the tide coming in at Wallis Sands. There's something exhilirating and refreshing about the ocean water, even when your teeth are chattering you feel like it is high adventure to be out there diving through the breakers, and the last thing on your mind is the summer drawing to a close and all the things you might have done, should have could have done. When time stops for you, that's the definition of feeling young. At the top of one curling wave, Michael and I were side by side, swimming to get out ahead, and as it broke, it sent us down with a clap into the sand. When we shot back up we both had ear to ear grins. As far as I'm concerned it's better than any water park.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
It's the best show in town, every 11 years, according to the scientists. As a result of the sun shooting off its plasma into space in our direction, causing ionized gases, I believe, to arc around the magnetic poles, we get these strange science fiction effects of the aurora borealis, or Northern lights tonight. They should occur as a greenish or reddish glow on the horizon, if the clouds dissipate from the muggy weather we've been getting. In ancient times, they say the Inuit and Laplanders encouraged their children to behave during these appearances, and one pictures the mischievous bands carousing by the eery glow suddenly growing quiet and reverent.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
The Senate gave up on efforts to pass a comprehensive energy bill designed to begin a switch away from fossil fuels today, leading me and surely even the eternally optimistic Tom Friedman to question again whether our democracy is equipped to meet 21st century global challenges. The Democrats were not able to muster enough votes to move the bill to the floor, fearing Republicans would point to the measure in the upcoming midterm elections as proof of insensitivity to the needs of ordinary Americans.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Last night the rain finally broke after a few long weeks of hot, dry weather. I slept well, listening to the water in the trees and gurgling down the gutter. When I look at the radar map on the weather site, it's like watching magic, the way the green clouds pop up along the ridge of the Green mountains, or in the Tennessee valley, and drift, turn yellow and thunderous, and then disappear, only to reappear again a hundred miles away. You have to wonder at the awesomely random logic that drives the system. We were up in the Whites hiking on our 20th wedding anniversary this week, and to see the power of the water as it comes out of the Franconia Notch at the height of the dry spell, the white, glacially cold water swirling deep into the carved basins or pounding in the cascades off the mountains, made me wonder at the brilliance and generosity of the planet's basic functionality. That's what water does in the summer, it softens any pessimism, renews our sense that life goes on.
Friday, July 9, 2010
(Editor's note: After a couple of weeks of computer problems, I'm back up again. Sorry about that.)
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
We've got a team once again that's doing us proud, a rerun of the Miracle on Ice in the '86 Olympics with the underdog US hockey team.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
This morning was the last of Mary's Run, the 5k race held every year in our town to commemorate the early death of a young girl from cancer. This was the eighth edition of the race, and the last, as the scholarship fund set up with the proceeds, to benefit graduating seniors, has enough money to run into the foreseeable future.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
We're into the deeper green of a well-watered spring now. The grass is growing inches a day and the sheep are down in the lower field. They can hardly keep up with the rotation. It's taken me a good amount of time to get the mower going. I use it around the house and the blueberries. It's a real work horse, but the ethanol in gasoline gunks it up, and it takes awhile to get the kinks out in the spring. I still need to look at the manual and see what needs to be tightened to improve the traction of the wheels. The engine is working fine now, but there is a belt loose running to the wheels. On the apple front, have finally figured out this year the little pest that wreaks havoc right at petal fall, the tarnished plant bug it's called, and I finally identified the tell-tale browning at the midrib of the leaves and frizzling of the flower buds. One spray of pyrethrum and it looks like it's taken care of. I can take a look at my first Northern Spy. If if it gives off a healthy vibration from the back door I know things are good. Today I gave the trees with substantial blossoms a spray of Surround, which is a fine clay that coats the fruit buds to protect against plum curculio. The curculio lays eggs in the small fruitlets and it has been a problem these last few years. The Surround spray is the only organic option, and it has been only partially effective, due I think to the small numbers of fruit bearing trees we have so far. This year we have double the number, which should reduce the pest pressure. Also I am leaving a trap tree unsprayed to see if that works.
Friday, April 30, 2010
I just got the hospital bill for the splinter in my foot I blogged about a couple of posts ago. A few bills short of $2,000, and they didn't even get it out. You would think there would be some sense of professional shame attached to the issuing of such a bill, but there wasn't. To recap, I stepped on something while digging in the garden a couple of weekends ago, and, unable to get it out myself, I went to the emergency room of Concord Hospital, where a female doctor on duty went to work, first injecting the bottom of my foot with some anesthetic. After about a half an hour of labor with knives and other apparatus and more injections of anesthetic, she pronounced the splinter unfindable. Another doctor, a higher up, was called in and he took a look, probed with his fingers around the wound, and said there was nothing else to be done and advised me to "soak your foot in soapy water and take these antibiotics." I hobbled home, worse off then when I'd arrived. I assume that this advice was the part of the bill itemized under "professional services" - $800. I understand the economics of health care are out of control, but more fundamentally, can I say the word ripoff and get some nods of agreement out there in the virtual world?
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
It's spring and there's lots to do fixing up the place. We had nine lambs, three died. You don't associate spring with tragedy in the popular imagination, but it's there just like the daffodils along the road. Two were born so weak to Bully's daughter, she tends to shy away from the feeding troughs with the grain. This year she had twins for the first time. But they couldn't stand despite her best coaxing. They walked around on their forelegs bleating for a day or two and finally succumbed. In the past we've bottle fed and run around in emergency mode. But this year, for some reason fatalism took over. This year death won an easy battle in the spring, a gimme in essence, but we have nine beautiful lambs and they frisk and play, they really do, skipping and jumping with the seasonal exuberance, the joy of being alive that puts us older ones to looking on with envy and thinking we could keep up, if only.
Friday, April 9, 2010
This is a personal rant. I'm tired of going after the big issues of the day. Yeah, it makes me feel better, but what good does it do? I'm not kidding myself. I worked as a reporter for ten years and the world went on after I quit. All of this is like the waves hitting at rocks. Like quantum physics, inexplicable, thought transference through some undiscovered medium, hoping that some current of thought will be picked up and like magic impact multitudes. Like prayer, this blogging depends on faith and discipline and ultimately its effect on anything but the mind of the perpetrator is on shaky ground.
Monday, March 29, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
It's a new day. We are living in a country born again. All of us who voted for Obama in the expectation of sweeping change are finally getting a sip of the long expected cup of victory. The dragon of neo-liberal social and economic ideology had held sway for so long in the decades since Reagan promised that greed would set us free, that many thought it was the stagnant default setting of the American republic. That assumption has been set on its head, and the fierceness of anti-democratic, racist, bullying resistance to the health care reform legislation belies the sea change that has taken place in the space of a few days.